Greek ruling party drops opposition to anti-racism law

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his conservative New Democracy party have dropped their opposition to a new anti-racism bill which outlaws Holocaust denial.

New Democracy had refused to back the bill sponsored by two smaller parties in the ruling coalition, saying that existing legislation was sufficient to deal with racist attacks that have been spawned by the ultranationalist, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.


Their opposition brought widespread condemnation, including from Greek and international Jewish groups, who urged Athens to take stronger steps against Golden Dawn

Now, New Democracy has tabled its own version of the bill, which attempts to strengthen existing laws and “unites democratic society and does not contain constitutional problems,” the party said in a statement.

The proposal would add stricter jail time and fines for inciting and carrying out racist attacks and, for the first time, makes “approving or belittling the seriousness of Nazi crimes, the Jewish Holocaust, and other genocides” a crime under Greek law.

Politicians or political parties with members convicted under the law, would not be eligible for state funding, according to the bill. However, state bodies and the Greek Orthodox Church would be exempt.

On May 31, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece reiterated its demand that the government support the bill, calling on “all democratic forces in the country to overcome their differences and pass legislation that will display zero tolerance to racist violence, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”

Golden Dawn emerged on the political scene last year, winning seven percent of the vote, or 18 seats, in the 300-member Greek Parliament. Recent polls have indicated the party, which runs on a fierce anti-immigrant platform, now has about 10 percent of the Greek population’s support.

Jewish and international groups have condemned Golden Dawn as racist and anti-Semitic.